Starting my bat mitzvah journey with Women of the Wall is very special to me in so many different ways.
I have always been interested in people having the right and the freedom to do what they want when it comes to practicing their religion. I have been very involved in doing things to get equal rights for everyone in my community and am an ally for the LGBTQ community. In addition to this, another area of interest for me is the rights of Jewish women. As an active member of my synagogue community, I believe that women should be able to do and participate in anything men can. This includes Jewish freedoms around the world and more specifically, in Israel.
I have had the privilege of visiting Israel many times. In my previous visits, we did not usually go to the kotel. On our last visit, we did go to the kotel. On this first visit, my Ima told me that we would have to go to the smaller side, and that the Torah I saw, was not going to be available for us. I was very upset and looked at my Ima and said, “But that is not what God would want.”
My Ima explained to me about Women of the Wall (WOW) but at that time, I didn’t
really understand what she was talking about. But over these last few years as I have grown and matured, I have heard about women being arrested for wearing a tallit or for reading Torah. I was very disappointed to learn of this. How could a Jewish woman not be free to pray to God or read Torah at the kotel in Israel? The Israel I know and love should be a country where all Jews, men and women, boys and girls, are free to practice religion in meaningful ways to them.
I think that it is so awesome that women are brave enough to go to the kotel to have a real service with a Torah, tallit and tefillin after people have been arrested for doing this. As I look forward to taking an aliyah with WOW in June, I know that am entering adulthood with brave Jewish women surrounding me. This is very special to me.
When I recently heard that WOW got to read from a full sized Torah for Rosh Hodesh Iyyar, I was shocked and happy. I was happy women who have come to the kotel to pray many times never got to use a Torah and this time they did. How cool that someone from the men’s side was giving the Torah to the women, and that shows to me that even though they don’t always say it aloud, men want women to be able to pray just like the men are able to pray on the men’s side with a Torah.
I was talking to my younger brother about the women getting the Torah and he asked me “don’t they always have Torah?” He didn’t fully understand why it was so important that the women had the opportunity to read from a full-size Torah. I explained to him that the women were not allowed to read from the Torah and that when they have tried to read, but something happens like women getting arrested or the Torah being taken away from them. He too was sad that the women don’t get to read from a Torah every month even though men do.
I am so excited as I begin my bat mitzvah journey and I am glad I get to begin it with WOW and to be around women who take pride in their tefillah, and who are working for religious freedom in Israel. This is a journey which has great meaning for me and I am lucky to be able to have this experience as part of my bat mitzvah journey.